Tales from Hyères 2019

Flea market fabrics and the struggles of everyday life: these were the themes that inspired the winning designs at Europe’s leading festival for young design talent.

Away from the hustle of Paris, Hyères in France’s Côte d’Azur was the location for the International Festival of Fashion, Photography and Fashion accessories.

On top of a hill above Hyères, the key venue for the 34thedition of the festival was the Villa Noailles, the spectacular modernist house built by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, where Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles famously hosted a stellar cast of creative talents in the 20thcentury including Luis Buñuel, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti, and Pablo Picasso. It’s been at the heart of the event since 1996, although the festival was founded ten years earlier by Jean-Pierre Blanc.

The Festival d’Hyères has established itself as a prestigious event with a special magic, blessed as it is with a seaside location and an expert blending of creative inspiration and sheer fun. Besides the influential and much lauded awards, there are curated programmes of art, music, fashion and photography. Highlights this year included an exhibition by Craig McDean, centred on the process of print making, and an installation by Paris-based label Botter, reflecting the Caribbean roots of its creators.

But the awards are the big thing. And the big names of the fashion industry today were all once fashion students. They understand how a prestigious award can be an essential building block for young designers looking for financial support and for exposure to build their own brands.

Villa Noailles

The Festival has helped to launch many generations of creatives.  Previous winners have included Viktor & Rolf, Felipe Oliveira Baptista and Julien Dossena. Sometimes, the success can come very quickly: after taking home the Première Vision Grand Prize in 2018, Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh, the duo behind the Botter brand, were appointed creative directors at Nina Ricci. Likewise, Anthony Vaccarello was hired by Saint Laurent in 2006, only a few weeks after triumphing in Hyères.

This year, the ten finalists showed at Hangar de la Mouture, a remote location just outside Hyères itself. The jury, presided over by Natacha Ramsay-Levi, creative director of Chloé, awarded the main prize to Austrian designer Christoph Rumpf, a student at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Besides a grant of 20,000 euros from Première Vision, he receives 10,000 euros plus royalties for creating some pieces for French brand Petit Bateau. He also wins the opportunity to present his collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin, and to work with Chanel’s Métiers d’art on a project.

Rumpf’s sculptural menswear silhouettes, made from repurposed fabrics such as antique Persian rugs, tell the story of a little boy who lives entirely on his own in the jungle until he finds out he is a lost prince. Although a fairy tale, it was inspired by the designer’s real-life experiences – he grew up in the countryside and moved to the city at the age of seventeen. “It is about struggling through life, first in the jungle to survive and to protect himself from nature, and later to have responsibilities and adjust to a lifestyle he is not used to,” he explained. “But it is not a tragic story, it is about shining through struggle.”

Each one of Rumpf’s oversized looks played a part in the narrative. The carpet look symbolises protection, while a trench coat made from car seat foam uses non-functional decorative elements to express the idea that the prince is living a fake life.

Photo: Daniela Benaim Benhamu

Christoph tried to keep the environmental footprint of his brand as low as possible. “I figured out that by using flea market fabrics and almost only using dead stock material my creativity is even more pushed to create something exciting,” he said.

In a similar way, Swiss designer Tina Schwizgebel-Wang, who took home the Chloé Prize, used old fur coats and plastic packaging to incorporate the art of tattooing into her garments. Exploring the permanence of inking, contrasting with the ephemeral nature of fashion, her collection explored the idea of travelling by including accessories such as an eye mask and a neck pillow.

Last year’s winner Botter also showed itslatest collection. Drawing inspiration from Paris’ marginalized communities and their resourcefulness with clothing, the pieces explore the idea of protection from climate change.

All these personal stories, drawing on diverse cultural backgrounds and responding to global concerns, dominated the festival’s menu. Never mind the sunshine and the South of France beaches – this year’s Hyères did not duck the big issues.

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